Stanford men’s basketball (5-2, 1-0 Pac-12) has had a turbulent season. With six total cancellations or postponements, including its matchup against Oregon State originally scheduled for Thursday, it has surely been the most unpredictable college basketball season of all time. The Cardinal looks to stay focused, however, as it heads into the biggest game of the season thus far against No. 21 Oregon (7-1, 1-0 Pac-12) on Saturday.
In the Preseason AP Top 25 Poll, the Pac-12 had three ranked teams: Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA. As we enter the new year, only one remains — the Oregon Ducks.
Oregon is about as balanced as it gets, from senior leadership, to athleticism and skill to top-notch coaching, and it shows when the Ducks step onto the court. Oregon has won seven straight games, including high-quality wins over schools like Seton Hall and San Francisco. The only loss for the Ducks came in its opener against Missouri, as the Tigers narrowly secured an 83-75 victory. At first, that loss came as somewhat of a surprise for college basketball fans, but as the season has progressed, Missouri has proven itself to be elite. The Tigers defeated then-No. 6 Illinois on Dec. 12 and have just one loss, to No. 7 Tennessee. Consequently, Oregon enters its matchup against Stanford with no bad losses on its resume.
The Ducks are the definition of a veteran squad, with an all-upperclassmen starting five and zero underclassmen averaging more than 18 minutes per game. Oregon’s high scorer has been redshirt senior forward Eugene Omoruyi, who averages 19.1 points per contest. Omoruyi, who played his first three collegiate years at Rutgers, has put a smile on the faces of Ducks fans everywhere. He clearly stepped up his physicality and shooting during his redshirt year and has inserted himself as a leader of this team.
By Omoruyi’s side is senior guard Chris Duarte, who was a member of the Pac-12 Media Preseason All-Conference Team. Duarte is contributing 15.9 points per game while maintaining an impressive 43.8% rate from beyond the arc.
Oregon’s season has not come without hurdles. Pre-season Pac-12 First Team selection and junior guard Will Richardson injured his thumb before the season even began, leaving him out for the foreseeable future. Just as it seemed Oregon was getting used to the absence of Richardson, sophomore center N’Faly Dante went down with a torn ACL against the University of San Francisco on Dec. 17. Losing the 6-foot-11 big man from Mali could prove devastating for the Oregon frontcourt as the season progresses.
Stanford, like Oregon, operates with a very experienced lineup. The two leading Cardinal scorers are senior forward Oscar da Silva and senior guard Daejon Davis, who have both spent all four of their collegiate years at the Farm. By Davis’ side is junior guard Bryce Wills, who, along with Davis, makes up one of the best backcourts in the Pac-12.
The Ducks have not lost on their home floor since Jan. 24, 2019, against Washington, so home-court advantage will be a major factor in the game. Stanford’s experience playing on the road will be necessary at Matthew Knight Arena.
Another similarity between Stanford and Oregon is that both teams lost guards that were historic in their own ways. After the 2019-2020 season, Stanford watched the departure of its first ever “one-and-done” freshman, Tyrell Terry. Terry, who averaged 14.6 points per game, was an integral part of Stanford’s success last season, and the Cardinal has been forced to fill the void he left behind. For Oregon, it was the loss of guard Payton Pritchard. Pritchard is the only player in the history of the Pac-12 to score 1,900 points, 500 rebounds and 600 assists.
Keys for success
The first key for Oregon is to find a way to compensate for the loss of Dante. Since losing Dante, the Ducks have not started a single player taller than 6-foot-6, and they will consequently be forced to compensate with something other than size. It will take an incredible level of tenaciousness and fight from smaller forwards like Omoruyi and junior Eric Williams Jr. to make up for Dante’s absence.
The second key for the Ducks is perimeter defense. Against San Francisco, Oregon managed to hold its opposition to 8-of-35 (22.9%) shooting from long range, which was a result of a combination of luck (many open misses by the Dons) and skill (often forcing bad shots). The Ducks will look to get the best of both worlds against Stanford — contain da Silva while keeping three-point shooters like sophomore forward Spencer Jones — at bay.
Stanford’s first key relates directly to Oregon’s — capitalize on da Silva. The senior forward has an opportunity to dominate on the interior given the absence of Dante, and if he does, the Cardinal will be difficult to beat.
The second key is for senior guard Daejon Davis to not only be healthy enough to play, but also to be healthy enough to compete. Davis, who sat out Stanford’s last game due to a leg injury, was set to be a game-time decision if the Cardinal’s matchup against Oregon State had taken place. Davis is a key facilitator and leader for this team, and for the Stanford backcourt to be on equal footing with players like Duarte, he will have to be playing his best basketball.
Tip-off is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. PT.
Contact Teddy Solomon at tedsol ‘at’ stanford.edu.